The Social Democrats have put forward a 10-point plan to revive ailing and run-down main streets in towns and villages around the country.
Starting at noon today, Saturday 16th September, Social Democrats members across the country will post social media images of shuttered, unused or derelict premises in their main streets, under the hashtag #ProjectMainStreet.
The Social Democrats’ proposals are aimed at stimulating economic development and local job creation, ensuring that abandoned shop units are put to good use, and improving the overall appearance of our main streets.
“As anyone who lives in rural and urban towns or villages across the country knows, many of our main streets are increasingly run down and neglected, with boarded-up shop units and closed businesses,” said the party’s local area representative for Ballinasloe, Ken Campbell.
“Our proposals are about finding ways to put the life and vibrancy back into our main streets, both in rural Ireland and in pockets of our cities. The measures we are putting forward today are about promoting regional economic development, protecting the interests of main street traders, giving a leg-up to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and encouraging community, sporting and arts groups to use our main streets in practical and innovative ways.
“The appearance of our main streets is also very important, and small things like cheerful shop fronts and attractive street furniture or landscaping can stimulate people to shop and circulate, and generate community pride. If more people were living over the shops in our main streets, that would bring vitality and life.
“Overall, it’s about helping to repopulate and revive urban centres with amenities and services that people of all ages and backgrounds can access and enjoy. Our priorities as Social Democrats are to plan for the future and ensure sustainable economic development and strong communities.”
Social Democrats co-leader, Catherine Murphy TD, added:
“Our main streets are the shop fronts for our towns and villages and we can no longer ignore the fact that many of them are dying. Some of our proposals would be very easy to implement at little or no cost, while others might take some time, planning and funding.
“By promoting sustainable regional development, targeting resources where they have the greatest potential, and rethinking how we support businesses and enterprise at local level, we can ensure the vitality of our towns and villages.”
The Social Democrats’ Project Main Street proposals are:
- Promote regional economic development by investing in capital projects that boost industrial and commercial capacity across the country such as improved rural broadband, electricity capacity, and third level technological centres.
- End rates rebates on vacant premises to encourage the use of empty premises, particularly by community, sports, social and arts groups.
- Improve local authority funding by allowing them to adjust their commercial rates and street-parking rates to promote the commercial viability of main street businesses. Funding would also be provided for environmental improvement works such as street lighting, footpaths, bicycle stands, landscaping etc.
- Town and village regeneration through the expansion of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, which provides funding to help rejuvenate local communities, and allowing more urban pockets to qualify for it.
- Strict enforcement of out-of-town shopping centre planning guidelines to ensure that main streets are not adversely affected by new developments.
- Tackle vacant and derelict sites through our draft law, the Urban Regeneration and Housing (Amendment) Bill 2017 which would help end the underuse of town centre sites and minimise dereliction.
- End upward only rents, which can undermine businesses and don’t take account of ups and downs in business cycles.
- Repopulate main streets by encouraging over-the-shop conversion to residential and dealing with current mortgage blockages for over-the-shop/mixed use developments.
- Roll out town websites with listings of all shops, services, contacts, events, promotions, opening times etc.
- Promote community banking through supports for the sector to improve the availability of credit in local communities.
For more information, download our Project Main Street proposals here.
16 September 2017